Small Press Spotlight: Projective Industries


For this Small Press Spotlight, we are featuring an interview with the three editors of Projective Industries, a small press that publishes beautifully designed, handmade letterpressed chapbooks. We would like to thank the editors for the interview and hope you will come visit our small press table, showcasing unique publications from Projective Industries as well as many other presses locally based in New York City.

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Projective Industries? When did the press first get started?

Kate McIntyre: Stephanie, you founded it in 2008, right? I became part of it in 2011 because I wanted to learn more about bookmaking, and wanted to be more involved in the small-press poetry community. It was after that that we started letterpressing the covers. Stephanie and I took some classes in letterpress and other printmaking techniques (on the simpler end of the printmaking spectrum) at Spudnik Press Cooperative in Chicago—which is where I'm from, and where Stephanie lives now. I moved to New York a little over a year ago, so now we're a sort of transcontinental press—last year, while Stephanie was living in Tokyo, we were international! And Karen joined this summer, which is so wonderful.

Stephanie Anderson: Yep, the poet Sam Amadon and I founded the press in the summer of 2008, as we were leaving New York. (I went to Chicago, Sam went to Houston.) I think it was partly founded from the desire to keep in touch with our literary community in New York, which was starting to disperse. But I was also in love with the handmade, with letterpress -- I had taken the Center for Book Arts' emerging writers letterpress seminar, and I was much inspired by Ryan Murphy, who showed me his tabletop Kelsey, on which he made his beautiful one-off chapbooks. Of course, I didn't manage to acquire a letterpress until 2011 or so, when a brilliant stroke of luck (and the poet Adam Weg) brought me one.

How did you arrive at the name, "Projective Industries"? Does the work you publish reflect what Projective Industries means to you?

KM: Well, Stephanie came up with the name, so her answer is the originary one. But I can tell you my own associations with it. I like the idea that we are an industry; that one thing chapbook-making does is make labor visible. And I like that it's plural; we're not doing just one kind of thing, either aesthetically or materially. And, while "projective" recalls Olson's "projective verse" for me, I like to think that we're projecting a little farther than that. The work we publish tends to be quite experimental, and the idea that the press is itself about launching (projects or projectiles, take your pick) and about futurity, rather than stasis, is important to me.

SA: I love Kate's associations, and agree with them. Sam is to be credited with the name itself, I think; he and I made several lists -- one column of which was the generic words we could have in the name, like "Books" and "Press," and I was rather smitten with "Industries" because it emphasized the making of the objects and potentially gave us the freedom to make or do or create things that weren't books, per se. But the "Projective" was purely Sam, and he was thinking of Olson. I also like the "project" embedded in there -- and we do tend to publish chapbooks that are projects, in one way or another. The industry of the poet AND that of the bookmakers.

Karen Lepri: I'll simply add that for me, the newcomer, "projective" includes the flashing up against a white background, a cinematic element that depends on the reader to organically take the work in and see-feel-hear it. Also, industries--plural! I imagine this multiplicity of makings, of processes that begin in other texts, conceits, forests, fields, threads, needles and so forth.

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Above: Obvious Metals
By Leora Fridman

How has your press evolved since you first started? Do you look to publish a particular type of work? Do you see continuity between the authors you publish?

KM: This one is tough—maybe others have better answers. I'd say it's evolved in terms of the physical look of the chapbooks quite a bit. I think there's an aesthetic continuity there, too, but I'd be hard-pressed to define that aesthetic. And I feel similarly about the work we publish. I think there is continuity there too, but to say it's experimental doesn't say much. But we do vary widely across the experimental spectrum; there's quite a difference between The DQE by P B (full name redacted) and Linda Russo's picturing everything closer visible, for example.

SA: Yes, the materiality of the chapbooks has changed. When we started, Sam and I wanted an identifiable look, but also one that was practical, as we had no book-making skills. Thus the fact that all the early chaps are 1/4 of the standard 8.5 x 11 page -- it was the easiest size for us at the time. We "branded" the books by printing all the covers on shiny paper, and attaching them sort of as book jackets (this was also a practical decision). Obviously, we've departed from this format in recent years, especially after obtaining the letterpress. It's true that we might be driven to publish "experimental" work, as Kate says, but as she notes, that's a slippery category. Personally, I like to look for work that challenges my sense of my own aesthetic -- which is part of why having co-editors is so important.

Below: The Dumbest Question Ever 
By P B

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What is the submission process like? Once you choose a work, how closely do you collaborate with the author? Do you edit together?

KM: We have an open reading period in June, and we choose a few chapbook manuscripts from those submissions each year. After that, I would say we collaborate quite closely with the authors on the production of their chapbook. We have occasionally done some editorial work with authors, but not as a matter of course. But we talk to authors all the way through the production process; about sizing and layout and covers and paper choices and ink colors. Lucy Ives actually designed and printed her own cover for Novel.

SA: I'll add that the editorial work, the couple times we've undertaken it, has been very satisfying. But usually we chose work that we feel is already pretty finished. We've been lucky in recent years in that the submission pool has been so excellent that we haven't solicited anyone.

KL: This was my first time being a reader and it was a thrill! It felt so exciting to feel the potential in the work, to feel the poems careening toward book-ness. I was so impressed by the pool and had a great time discussing them with the other editors. We had a surprisingly simultaneously convergent and divergent way of looking at the submissions, that ended up in relatively easy agreement.

How are your books designed and printed? Can you speak a little bit about the production process?

KM: We do it all, right? I think we're pretty serious about the handmade. The internal layout is done in InDesign, and the covers are often digitally altered photographs taken by Stephanie, and the covers are printed on a little tabletop letterpress in Stephanie's apartment. Then they are sewn in our living rooms. It's a domestic industry—and I mean to be suggesting handiwork here in all its feminist glory.

SA: Ha! Yes, entirely domestic industry. Kate came along actually at exactly the right second -- I was feeling really spread thin as a new PhD student and chapbook publisher -- and she took over all the interior layout, which really helped. Oh, and there's her boundless enthusiasm, which made it all pleasurable again. And that's continued.

What is you favorite part about running a small press?

KM: There's so much to love... it's such a privilege to work with authors and be able to read so much unpublished material. I feel fortunate to have read even the material we don't publish. And the material we do publish, of course, I love, and it's wonderful to be trusted to help bring that into the world. I really love the entire production process. There's an attention to detail required that can becomes totally meditative—though it can also become maddening, depending on how you're feeling on a given day. This is true even of working to get the layout just right on the computer. And it's true of the sewing. But it's truest of the letterpress work. I will never forget the day Stephanie practically took apart her press with a wrench to get the paper to line up exactly right. It really is an industry. To pick one tiny moment: I love getting covered in ink while letterpressing. I relish the mess. (But I'm equally obsessive about the clean-up.)

SA: We joke that it's not a successful printing experience if Kate isn't covered in ink at the end. But I absolutely share her delight in material production, in watching the covers all get lined up on top of the bookshelves, marching along. The engineer's daughter aspect of me perhaps comes out in wrestling with the press itself; I love knowing to turn a certain screw to get a certain amount of pressure to get the right imprint. Or something close to it (our work undoubtedly looks pretty messy to a professionally trained printer, but we love that weediness too). And I love designing the covers and offering authors several choices. I'm always surprised by the cover they pick. That whole process keeps the work fresh for us. Finally, I love publishing someone I don't know and then tracking their work afterward -- there's an added intimacy, even if you never meet the writer face-to-face.

KL: I can't wait to get my hands dirty and forget completely about the writing itself. I am also really happy to be on the other end of things after being so lucky to have other small presses publish my work. I'm thrilled to get to learn from Kate and Stephanie.

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Above: picturing everything closer visible by Linda Russo
Henhouse by Carand Burnet

Can you talk a little bit about the Projective Industries community?

KM: The three of us? Or our extension outwards into the community? Stephanie and Karen are two of my favorite poets, no lies. It's wonderful to be working with them. And it's also wonderful to be part of the broader small-press community. You have a higher concentration of presses in New York, it's true, but what I love the most about the chapbook community is the way it spans geographic boundaries. There are presses all over, and you sustain friendships with the people you meet, because we're all committed to nourishing that community. Two of my favorite bookmakers and people are Jen Tynes (Horse Less Press) and Michael Sikkema (Shirt Pocket Press), who live in Grand Rapids. MC Hyland, of DoubleCross Press, has a series called "Poetics of the Handmade" where chapbook publishers write about their process. The first book in the series was Paradise Was Typeset by Brian Teare, and he talks in that about the creation of community through gift-giving. This really is a community premised on generosity. Which is—just everything.

SA: Ah, how can I follow that? It's absolutely true. And it's a community that's always shifting, that doesn't have fixed boundaries -- the privileges of the contemporary moment and its technologies -- and that's really important to me. I don't feel like I belong to a particular community, but perhaps to many, or to a network. And I like the idea of leaving behind ghostly filaments tracking such motion.

KL: Again new here, but excited now that I'm on the team to share chapbook press love with New HerringArgosClock PressAlbion, and more! Also excited to work with designers and artists outside our amazing little team.